Supervisors surprised at maintenance costs for park

PAT FRIDGEN

An Antrim Township worksession Nov. 3 brought unexpected news to the two supervisors present. Curtis Myers and Rick Baer were shocked to learn that the cost of mowing Antrim Township Community Park, once Phases 3, 4, and 5 are complete, could be $120,000 a year.

Administrator Brad Graham and roadmaster Paul Minnich had sought quotes and worked the numbers.

"That's a typo, right?" asked Myers.

He was assured it was not. As the final work is done, it adds 20 acres to the already usable land, becoming 45 mowable acres.

Of several quotes from vendors, $1,400 per mowing was the lowest. As the panel discussed the need for services, they extrapolated the number of weeks and months for the seasonal work.

The four considered using employees versus contracting out. Minnich thought it would require two fulltime people working 40 hours a week to tend to the three Antrim parks, with ATCP taking most of the time. The areas would also need maintenance year round. In the winter the new employees could handle other odd jobs for the township. He added that the startling figure did not include mowing any other parts of the township. "I didn't consider the rest because this much blew your mind."

In 2008 Antrim paid $798 per mowing for the parks, buildings and grounds, sewer and water treatment plants, and lift stations. In 2009 it budgeted $5,000 but did not contract out the mowing. The work was done by one permanent road crew member, and one parttime and two fulltime summer help employees.

The township also has a parttime employee who mows ATCP. He is assigned 20 hours per week, but Minnich indicated at a previous meeting the man was going over those hours to get the work done.

"We could spend a quarter million dollars a year for mowing grass!" Myers continued. "This is ridiculous."

History

ATCP was begun in 2000, the year after the township purchased a 136-acre farm along the Conococheague Creek and Grant Shook Road. Phases 1 and 2 were completed by 2004. They included soccer fields, an all-purpose field, pavilion, gazebo, playground, restrooms and four miles of trails.

In 2006 the board took steps to finish phases 3, 4, and 5. They will include softball/baseball fields, a multi-purpose field, tennis and basketball courts, a pavilion and more trails. The fields will be ready for play in 2011.

Myers was critical of the maintenance that accompanied the large park. "Everyone wants this stuff. They don't think out long term."

On Aug. 12, 2008 he and three other supervisors, Baer, Samuel Miller and Fred Young III, approved awarding a bid to David H. Martin Excavating. The firm was hired to complete the last three phases for $2.1 million. James Byers voted no, not favoring the accelerated finish to the park.

Minnich said fertilizing, aeration and seeding would run another $23,000 annually. He was also going to check on the cost to contract out roadside mowing, currently done inhouse.

Graham planned to determine the expense related to hiring two people while Minnich sought more quotes.

Baer was anxious for the entire board to get back together. "The group of us really have to talk about this."

When one person commented that the lawn care business could make a good living for someone, Myers replied, "That's what I'm scared of. Our guys will bid it and quit."